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Help me break out of the budget/low end!

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
After 2 years of building up a business I am now slightly better positioned to start getting back into my hobbies and passions. My current setup has been tweaked and added to over the years and I would consider it a shade over a "budget" system. My plan now is to start upgrading bits and bobs over the next year to have a setup that will be step into the mid range. I'll list all the kit I have below with a few short notes if relevant. I'd like you experienced heads to take a look at certain areas and suggest possible upgrades or perhaps what should be a priority to upgrade etc. The setup is in my large open plan living room. All seating positions are around 14 feet away from the screens. Walls are all white (I know, I know!) floor is oak. All surrounds are 1.5 feet above seated ear level and the sub is halfway between front and rear rights.

Video:

Panasonic TH50PZ70B - Bought this as a bargain to replace a Sony V3000 40" LCD. Despite being the same age the improvement in PQ over the Sony is massive. Also 10" extra for the sake of £100 seemed a no brainer. The plan is to replace this with another Panasonic plasma towards the end of the year. Hoping for a 65" to tide me over while 4k and/or OLED tech matures (say a couple of years)

Optoma HD230EX - Owned this for around 5 months now from new. Generally I am pretty happy with it considering its a budget PJ. Its still a step up from my last 720p too. Despite my better judgement though I went with a DLP PJ again and do occassionally see rainbows. In the next 6months I'd like to sell this one and get an LCD PJ instead. At the moment the PJ lives on a stand that is put away (in the corner) after use. I'd like to get my next PJ mounted on the ceiling (in this case I want a white model instead of my current black one) although I am concerned I can't do this. My whole living room was dry lined when we decorated, will a ceiling mounted PJ be alright to attach to plaster boards?

Screen - This is a generic 92" I got from eBay years ago. My entire living room is matte white so I want a screen which will work best for this enviroment. Its also got an ever so slight ripple in it that I honestly barely notice....but I know its there! This will 100% be replaced soon with a bigger screen. I think I'd like to go to 120" especially considering I am plannig for a 65" Plasma at some point.

AMP - Denon 1910 - Owned this for knocking on 3-4 years now. It pretty much does everything I want but I am unsure whether an upgrade will see a big jump in sound quality. I guess much of this is dependant on my speakers too. Initially I was looking at new amps due to their streaming features however I have since bought a Sonos ZP80. This has pretty much sorted all my streaming needs and works brilliantly.

Speakers - Kef 1505 package. This comprises of Kef 7001 sattelites and a C4 sub. This was another bargain buy off the classifieds and replaced my Jamo A102s. Despite not even being properly calibrated yet its an obvious improvement. I replaced the Centre speaker with a Mordaunt short centre my dad had in storage. Its a bigger unit and has brought better clarity to dialogue although I am not sure how this will work/be effected once I run calibration tomorrow. I have been considering a big sub upgrade in the last few days but I am unsure whether it is even worth it with my current system. I'd really like to feel/hear more response at lower frequencies hence why I was considering the sub change. Is it a pointless exercise without upgrading the amp and surrounds first?

So as I mooted before, I am asking you guys to indulge me a little (apologies for the walls of text) but I have hopefully given you all enough info on everything. I'll probably spend a couple of grand this year on improvements and include any cash raised from sales of existing kit. My playback sources are 98% HD made up of a mixture of Blurays, SKY HD and high quality rips. I used to play alot of games (you can catch me on the AVForums games podcast every month :hiya: ) and I'm slowly starting to find the time again to play. I have built a fairly high end PC delivering excellent 1080p video and uncompressed game sound to my system. I really really want the clarity of HD audio soundtracks to sing!!

So, thanks for making it this far through my essay! Any contribution or pointers would be massively appreciated even if its only on small aspects of my setup.

Steve
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
I'll follow up post as I find out any info I have found that's been an eye opener in case it's helpful to others.


From my afternoons reading and catching up on the Avforums TV YouTube channel, it would appear that if a sub has its own internal amplifier it's usage or application is not necessarily dependant on the accompanying speakers or amp. Can anyone confirm that this is indeed the case?
 

logiciel

Moderator
It's not that bass units have or do not have internal amplifiers - it's whether they're powered or not.
Most AVRs need to be connected to a powered bass unit as an essential part of their 5:1 (or better) output.
 

twoeyedbob

Established Member
New spkr's and sub would seem the most logical next step.
Plenty of bargain's out there if you ,like me..enjoy the chase as much as the purchase...
Although decent rawlplugs into plaster would probably suffice for the
Pj ,i'd imagine finding a joist/upright would be preferable

Dont bother about matching the sub to the rest of the speaker's...they all do the same thing..just some better than other's

Sent from my HTC Vision using Tapatalk 2
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
All I'd say is that if you prefer the MS centre speaker, look for the matching front speakers to go with it. Mixing MS and KEF satellites isn't going to give a very consistent front soundstage no matter what EQ your amp has.

Using the KEFs as surrounds is less critical in terms of a match, but ideally they would all be the same make and model for a perfect tonal match. Anything less is a compromise to some degree, but less so in the case of surrounds.

I think the 1910 is fairly low powered, so if you do go for bigger speakers then eventually a more powerful amp might be a worthwhile upgrade. Of course it depends on what listening levels you tend to run at. If you run at or near reference level then the 1910 is going to struggle with bigger speakers, but if you can't/don't listen that loud, perhaps it's less important.

The thing is that you could always improve the system and keep spending, so it's important to decide what you're aiming for and try to release you reached that point when you get there. ;) In 15 years I've gone from a basic Aiwa Pro Logic amp with tiny speakers through various Denon amps and bigger mixed speakers, up to Arcam separates biamped with a full set of matching PMC speakers. Each level gave me enjoyment with the improvement over the previous, but in some cases cost a considerable amount (even though it's nearly all secondhand). I'm still looking for an improvement in the subwoofer (BK Monolith at the moment) and possibly a better PMC centre, which will also mean matching fronts given my comments further up. So I'm not done yet myself, though my audio set up has been the same for the last 4 years or so, which at least means I've had plenty of use out of it.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
Got home after a few days at my parents. Re calibrated my setup with Audessy and re-instated the centre as the Kef 7001. Happy to give it another go for a while and see how we get on. Sub crossover is set as 80Hz in both the amp and on the nob on the back of the Kef C4. Will give that a go tonight and I suspect there will be a big difference as I had yet to calibrate since changing over to the Kef 1505s.

I did have half an eye on an XXLS400 in the classifieds but I think I am going to live with the system as it is for a month. I am definitely going to be upgrading the screen in the next few weeks. I have the room to throw atleast 120" so I may aswell go for it. I'll add a pic later to show how the screen currently is and where I would like a new one to go.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
Of course it depends on what listening levels you tend to run at. If you run at or near reference level then the 1910 is going to struggle with bigger speakers, but if you can't/don't listen that loud, perhaps it's less important.

Assuming my 1910 is calibrated correctly and 0dB is indeed reference the answer would be no lol! Never had the chance to go that loud.
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
It depends on the distance from the speakers and whether your amp adjusts to make the levels match reference (test tones are usually -20dB down so that they aren't too loud), but yes 0db on the amp should be reference or very near. I tend to listen at between -10 and -5db below reference myself, I gather that you listen some way down from this, which does at least reduce the demands on your system (and amp in particular).

I wanted to point out that your setting on the subwoofer itself probably shouldn't be set to 80Hz: The LFE channel can go up to 120Hz and you'll be losing some of this signal (since it doesn't go anywhere other than the sub) if you set it to 80Hz.

The speaker crossover at 80Hz (set in the amp) is a different matter since the signal below 80Hz goes to the sub instead of the speakers. Given the small size of your speakers it may be worth trying 90 or even 100Hz as well since they probably don't produce much level below 100Hz anyway, so you may end up with a dip in the response between the speakers and the sub if the crossover is set too low. As always experiment since 80Hz while a common setting isn't always correct.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
Would it be worth posting up the crossover values audessy has set in my amp?
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
You can, but IMHO you're better off playing familiar scenes/songs and just trying different settings. It doesn't upset the Audyssey settings (since the crossover is set by the amp itself and is quite separate from Audyssey).

Many people just plump for 80Hz since it's the 'THX' setting. However with little speakers like yours that might claim below 80Hz response the output could be well down by that point. The crossover setting point isn't a 'switch' it's a filter with a gradual slope, so some signal will still go to the speakers at 70Hz for example and some will go to the subwoofer which (if designed and set up correctly) should give the correct combined output at 70Hz. If your speakers are -6db at 80Hz then you could end up with a dip in response since the speakers won't be giving the expected output to combine with the sub.

As an example my PMC speakers are spec'd to 40Hz and recently reviewing my (manually) set crossover I found that 60Hz sounded best for various reasons. So the crossover isn't set in stone based on specs.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
Kelvin that's brilliant! Really appreciate your input. I'll have a play this evening and update.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
Haven't had a mass of time to sit an enjoy the system since I recalibrated but I did find that an 80Hz crossover on the sub seems to work best. Was finding that 90-100Hz was sending the wrong elements of the mix to the sub leaving me with a unpleasant booming response from the sub.
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
At least you've tried it. :smashin: That you could hear a difference with the different settings shows how worthwhile it is to experiment. It might be that the sub isn't really up to the job since it is just an 8" driver making itself too obvious perhaps due to lack of control, but of course it's always something to look at in the future. The XLS400 you previously mentioned might be worth looking into when funds allow.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
Thanks. I'm happy to tinker. Its the easiest way for me to learn things sometimes :D I have been considering one of the SVS cylindrical style subs. I think £600 is probably something I could live with spending but the dilemma is really where to spend that kind of cash first. Literally any area of my setup would see a pretty vast improvement with a £600 upgrade!
I need to get a pic up of my screen placement so you can make suggestions RE: a possible upgrade for that too.
 

DrH

Prominent Member
My experience from the last few years upgrades has followed the path below.

A few years ago I had a Yamaha av receiver, Pioneer mid range DVD player, a MS speakers system and a pioneer Kuro plasma.

I changed over to blu ray first from DVD, A Panasonic player to start then a Pioneer.

My next upgrade was the AV receiver. I got a bargain on a pioneer Lx60 receiver. This made as big a difference to the sound as much as the improvement in going to blu ray.

I then had the chance to convert my garage into a home cinema room so I added a Panasonic AE3000 projector

As ever as you have found there is that thought of what if I change something else.

A BKXXLS400 sub came along which again made a big difference.

The most recent upgrade came from changing to the Kef Q series speakers, again another big change.

It comes down to which you have an interest most, audio or video

I would go along upgrading the audio path first, £600 won't go far so I would save longer, upgrade the speakers, you can still use your kef,s as rear, upgrade the amp then the sub.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
So I have started to move things on a bit. Got an SVS PC12+ arriving this week to replace my Kef C4 sub. Should be a huge difference! I recently replaced my aged battered old screen with a Cyberview 92". I thought I wouldn't see a big difference between 81" and the new 92" but it was very noticeable. Soon got used to it and wished I had gone for 106"! All in good time :D

I am going to hold off upgrading my TV and projector until 4k specs and tech are a little more mature (CES should go a long way to settling things). I might stretch to a stop gap JVC PJ if I see one 2nd hand for a good deal. Otherwise TV, Amp and PJ will have to wait till a 4k solution presents itself. So that just leaves my speakers to upgrade. I am going to start reading up on the speakers forums but I defo want satellites. I have all the positions already setup and with two kids also using the living during the day I want something up and out of the way.

Will defo get some pics up soon of the current setup.
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
If you want discrete, but good quality satellites I can highly recommend the MK MP150 speakers. I just got mine on Monday and they are more compact and discrete than my PMC speakers, yet sound much clearer and open (could be partly due to the PMCs not working well close to the wall to be fair).

If these are a bit too expensive, then there are other models such as the LCR950 or M7 on wall ranges, you can find them all by going through pages 1 to 3 on this link:

MK Sound | Home Cinema Products

All of these will need a subwoofer to perform properly of course, but as you know BK is a good option or the Gecko's own brand subs (Ultimate subwoofer company) starting with the 15" model.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
Already agreed a deal to buy a SVS PC12+ subwoofer :D How much are the MK satellites? I am budgeting around 1k for my new speakers
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
MK M5 start from £229 each speaker with the matching tripole surrounds £595 a pair so you would be looking at £1,300 approx so maybe they'll be a bit above budget in that case. Perhaps you'd get more for your money on the classifieds?

The MP150 are brilliant (with a sub of course) but are a grand each, so I'm selling off all my other unused speakers so I can buy another for the centre. :rolleyes::)
 
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Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
Cheeky bump on this thread :D

Not a huge amount has changed since I last posted. The new sub has made a big difference but I think I am now ready to change my amp. I am also currently using a PS3 as Bluray player. The plan is to sell my Denon 1910 and my PS3, this should hopefully raise a couple of hundred quid. I then plan to throw in another £400 giving me a budget of £600. I guess this breaks down to say £400 for the amp and £200 for the multi region BD player.

Would an upgrade to a Denon AVR X3000 deliver increased detail and clarity in movie sound tracks? I do plan to upgrade my speakers but not till later in the summer. In regard to the BD player I just need a multi region box, no 3D (no interested in it at all). I am told a dedicated player should handle video playback far better then my PS3 and considering I don't use it for games at all anymore, I am ready to make the jump.

Any pointers or advise is again really appreciated :)
 

Joe Fernand

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
If you have a Sub crossover point set in the AVR the 'knob' on the Sub should be set to its bypass position - you don't want both devices filtering the signal - Subwoofer FAQs & Guides | AVForums

I would take some time to visit a few dealers and demo speaker/amp systems which will work in your room to get an idea of what sort of budget is going to deliver a meaningful upgrade and I wouldn't get overly hung up on '4K' (Ultra HD) as it's going to be a while (if ever) before it's more than a novelty.

Joe
 

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